“Sons and Daughters of the Northern Lights” is a 50-minute program being brought to the region by the Sutter Brothers. It is targeted at adult audiences. It is one of two free events which are touring area libraries this month, funded by the Legacy Amendment.
“‘Sons and Daughters of the Northern Lights’ will offer glimpses of early settlers, memories of a vanished village school, a lament for ghost towns, and celebrations of colorful farm folk and fishermen,” states the press release from the Arrowhead Library System. “The show will be specially designed to evoke memories and provoke curiosity about regional history, ethnic culture, and the presence of the past in our contemporary lives.”
The Sutter Brothers, Ross and Bart, will perform music, stories, poetry and songs that explore the Scandinavian immigrant experience of their ancestors and descendants.
“Bart and Ross Sutter are both so incredibly talented and we think patrons will enjoy exploring regional Scandinavian history through stories, songs and sharing memories,” said Mollie Stanford, regional librarian for the Arrowhead Library System, over email.
Where did the idea for this program come from? “Oh, this goes way back,” said the Sutter brothers over email. “Let’s blame it on our grandparents. All four of them spoke Swedish and so seemed somewhat mysterious to us when we were small. Our mother’s mother, the last living survivor of the Great Hinckley Fire, was a fabulous gossip and storyteller. She lived to be 97, so we got to know her well as adults, and she really fueled our interest in immigrant history and culture...Ross and I have done dozens and dozens of performances together, all of them inevitably colored by our heritage. This particular program, “Sons and Daughters of the Northern Lights,” began as a show we presented to six county historical societies in northwestern Minnesota a year ago spring, which we then modified for the Arrowhead Library System.”
Each Sutter brother brings their unique talents to this performance.
“Ross is a professional musician specializing in traditional Scandinavian, Celtic, and American music,” said Bart of his brother over email. “He plays guitar, button accordion, dulcimer and Irish drum but may be best known for his rich baritone voice.” Ross has won three grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board, he has performed for A Prairie Home Companion and the Winnipeg Folk Festival, among others.
Different yet just as creative as his brother, Bart is an author of nine books and is the only author to win the Minnesota Book Award in three different categories—poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. He, too, has worked with public radio and has had four of his plays produced.
“Although we’ve established individual reputations as writer and musician, we take special pleasure in performing as a pair,” said the Sutter brothers over email. “Our shows integrate Bart’s original poems with Ross’ versions of traditional songs and tunes. The music complements the spoken word and vice versa to create a whole program more effective than the sum of the individual parts.”
They have collaborated on over 100 shows. “Sons and Daughters of the Northern Lights” is their newest program and it is inspired by Bart’s new book “ Nordic Accordion: Poems in a Scandinavian Mood.”
“We aim, always, at a minimum, to entertain. But we always hope to go beyond that, also, to move our audience to tears and laughter. To raise awareness about our area. To provoke curiosity about our regional history. To remind the audience how many people (to paraphrase the religious writer Simone Weil) have to live like heroes just to get through ordinary lives.”
Ask your local librarian when the show will stop in your town.
This program, sponsored by Arrowhead Library System, was funded in part or in whole with money from Minnesota’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. To learn more about Arrowhead Legacy Events, please see our calendar at www.alslib.info, follow us on Twitter @ALSLibraryNews, or like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/alslibinfo.